With convincing wins in the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) and Fantasy (G3), Swiss Skydiver emerged as a top contender for the Sept. 4 Kentucky Oaks (G1), and the Kenny McPeek-trained filly will look to carry her form out west in Saturday’s $200,000 Santa Anita Oaks (G2).
The chestnut daughter of Daredevil heads a field of five in the 1 1/16-mile race, one of five stakes on the Santa Anita Derby undercard, and the Santa Anita Oaks will award points on a 100-40-20-10 scale to the top four finishers as a qualifier in the Road to the Kentucky Oaks series.
Swiss Skydiver showed promise despite breaking poorly in a pair of starts at age 2, but her sophomore season began poorly with a fifth in the Gasparilla S. at Tampa Bay Downs and a well-beaten third in the Rachel Alexandra (G2) at Fair Grounds. The former late runner reversed course in the Gulfstream Park Oaks, leading wire-to-wire posting a 3 1/4-length upset at 9-1, and Swiss Skydiver tracked the speed in the May 1 Fantasy before drawing off to a 2 1/2-length score at 16-1.
Mike Smith picks up the mount.
Speech, second when making her stakes debut in the Santa Ysabel (G3) in early March, will attract support following an excellent neck second to Gamine in a May 2 allowance at Oaklawn Park. Flavien Prat has the call on the Florida-bred Mr Speaker filly for Michael McCarthy.
Merneith, a stirring 10-length maiden winner when making her third career outing at Oaklawn on April 19, will stretch back out to a two-turn distance. She is one of two for Bob Baffert, and Drayden Van Dyke retakes the mount on the daughter of American Pharoah. Baffert will also send out Regal Beauty, a 3 1/4-length maiden scorer at Santa Anita on May 17.
California-bred stakes winner Smiling Shirlee completes the field.